By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on November 27, 2015
Welcome ladies and gentlemen, to yet another episode of the Big Red Timemachine. I am very pleased to see all of you again (metaphorically speaking) as we set off into the past to rediscover some of the greatest gaming feats ever accomplished. This week, we’re staying a bit closer to home. I am breaking my own rule by reviewing a game that isn’t even ten years old, but what the hell! I thought to myself: “This is my company, I can basically do what I bloody well please!”. Besides, there’s no one left who dares to argue with me, especially after the last few ‘accidents’ of a number of my staff members who actually had the nerve to do so. One individual in particular has felt my wrath and I’m pretty sure he’s still feeling it. This person, who shall remain unnamed, had the audacity to frown upon one of my latest ideas.
Due to the sheer amount of work involved with time travel, I was forced to ask my staff to come in and work on Sundays from now on. Hey, it’s a 24/7 world, so we will have to go that extra mile if we wish to stay on top. To ease the pain a bit, I dubbed it Sombrero Sundays. Each member of my staff is allowed to come into work wearing a poncho and an oversized sombrero, even a huge fake mustache, if they so pleased. This individual came up to me and stated he would rather have the day off than participate in such a silly charade. Taken aback by this statement, I didn’t react immediately, but thought about it for a few days. Then, the next Sunday, I introduced a surprise element to the festivities: Piñata party! And guess who was chosen to be the piñata… Suffice it say I Papier-mâchéd the hell out of that sucker and the rest of my staff did the whacking. Problem solved! The execution of this little revenge really took it out of me, so that’s why I decided to take a shorter trip this time. So strap yourselves in as we blast off, in search for a game, which I personally think is way underappreciated: Hellgate – London.
Originally released in 2007 by Flagship Studios, Hellgate: London whisked the player away to a not-so-distant future, in which the earth is in shambles. This is however not, as one may be inclined to expect, the result of a terrible nuclear war, but of a demon army invading Earth. What remains of humanity, hides in old underground tunnels and installations and tries to form some kind of resistance to repel the demon threat. You, as one of these survivors are asked to join the rebellion and, of course, you accept. As you start out, you can choose from six main classes: Guardians and Blademaster (fighter-class), Summoners and Evokers (mage-class) or Marksmen and Engineers (ranged-class). After you choose your class, you can fine-tune the look of your character and give him or her a name. True to my usual choice of character, I created a truly ugly fighter and named him Batsegezich (Assface). After being satisfied with my accomplishment, I set out to vanquish evil forever.
What made Hellgate: London stand out was its dark and foreboding main story, cool characters, awesome graphics and, most of all, the sheer diversity of weapons and items that could be found throughout the game (Something Borderlands was also praised for, two short years later). And although it received mixed reviews, I just like to clarify that I thought it was more than awesome. The environments, selection of gnarly looking demons and challenging quests were guaranteed to keep you amused for hours on end. Another thing I liked about the game was that it was positively huge without just blatantly copy-pasting entire sections. It had the perfect desolate atmosphere needed to get into the role of fearsome demon slayer. Some people might say that the combat was repetitive, but I must firmly disagree with them. I actually thought it felt well-paced and presented a more than decent challenge, flinging hordes of demons at you at every turn.
In order to survive this ordeal, you had to upgrade your weapons and equipment at any of the safe havens disused subway stations) you encountered on your quest. This is where things get REALLY interesting. Every weapon and a lot of the items you found on your travels, could be dismantled for raw materials. These materials could then be used to upgrade your equipment. So no more choosing whether or not to drop a certain weapon. Just pick the one you aren’t going to use anymore and break it down! Hellgate London featured randomly created weapons and items, adding to the replay value of the game, and challenging players to keep searching for that one awesome weapon!
The characters in the game were well written and provided you with side-quests, ranging from searching for a boy’s wooden leg to gathering about 50 zillion demon horns in order to create some sort of a healing contraption. I cannot help but wonder what they’ll call the machine in question. I would personally go with ‘The Horny Healer’, but that’s just me… Sorry, I got side-tracked a bit. On with the review! The demons themselves looked absolutely fantastic; twisted, mean and, above all, richly detailed. And not only the npc’s and demons looked really good, the environments were also artfully crafted and added to the overall feeling of needing to drive the demons back into the dark pit of Hell they crawled from. To actually defeat some of the higher-ranking demons, you would have to enter one of the rifts (the Hellgates) you came across while making your way through demon infested London. After entering such a rift, you would find yourself in hell and faced a number of lesser demons, usually accompanied by one much tougher specimen. After dispatching all these enemies, it was time to collect the bounty of your work and return to a nearby station, where more glorious upgrades awaited!
As is common practice in every good RPG, the character upgrading is one of the most crucial aspects of the game. Fail to do so, and you will die an untimely death, much like, alas, Hellgate itself. While developer Flagship Studios had really big plans for this game, they filed for bankruptcy in August 2008, obliterating every dream they ever had for expanding the already expansive world of Hellgate: London. And while you could still play the game in its single player mode, the games’servers went down in Januari 2009, making multiplayer a thing of the past. Over the years, there have been companies who made an effort to revive the game, even starting up servers for multiplayer. As of September 2014, there’s even an announcement for a remade version of Hellgate, including the expansions to date. So here’s me, hoping this awesome game will be re-released in the foreseeable future.
I had a tremendously good time while playing Hellgate: London. I just love the art, the story, the tension you feel when creeping through dimly lit corridors, never knowing if a demon will jump out and bite your face off. I just love everything about the game and frequently visit this virtual London for another round of ‘Squish the Demon’. In fact, I think it is about time I showed those demon freaks what real Hell feels like!